The Kite Runner

Rated 2.0

In pre-civil-war Afghanistan, an upper-middle-class Sunni kid betrays the sweetly loyal friendship of his father’s servant’s Shiite son. Then he narrowly escapes the Russian invasion and inherits a new life in Northern California. Years later, grappling with guilt (and played by Khalid Abdalla), he has a chance for redemption, but it requires a dangerous return to his native land, now ruined by the horrifically oppressive Taliban. Screenwriter David Benoiff and director Marc Forster underline the prosaic sentimentalism in East Bay novelist Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 bestseller, while somehow leeching the book’s energy and richness of detail. The movie feels stiff and strangely amateurish (which qualifies it as a faithful adaptation, the book’s detractors will say); Benoiff and Forster’s noble, culturally diplomatic decision to make it (mostly) in Dari instead of English seems to have sacrificed some kind of fluency. Meanwhile, what should be an evocative, signature scene of kites flying over Kabul gets squandered by slick, CGI-enhanced aerial-camera showboating. Worse: Though obviously verifiable by Hosseini’s life experience, The Kite Runner’s view of the world—thugs will be thugs; sensitive kids will be fiction writers—comes off as disposably pat.